William Spencer III
- This article is about the industrial and pharmaceutical executive. For the banker, see William F. Spencer III.
Spencer was the son of William M. and Margaret Spencer of Birmingham. He attended grade school here before finishing at the Baylor Military Academy in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He earned a bachelor of science in chemistry at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee in 1941 and briefly attended medical school before enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps for World War II. He was trained as an artillery spotter and stationed to Tarawa, Saipan, Tinian, Okinawa and Nagasaki. He earned a Bronze Star for his service and, after four years, was discharged with the rank of Captain.
After the war, Spencer completed a business degree at Harvard University and returned to Alabama. He married the former Evalina Brown. In 1946 he partnered with Caldwell Marks to purchase the Owen-Richards Company, an industrial supplier, becoming president in 1952. They expanded the business regionally and changed the name to Motion Industries in 1972, with Spencer as chairman. The company was sold to the Genuine Parts Company of Atlanta, Georgia in 1976, but Spencer remained with the firm until his retirement in 1985. He and Marks were also investment partners in the establishment of BE&K in 1972.
In the 1980s, Spencer joined a group of investors working to form Molecular Engineering Associates, which sought to commercialize pharmaceutical research at UAB. In 1986 he, John Montgomery and Charles Bugg formed BioCryst Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Spencer was very active in civic affairs throughout his life. He was president of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, the Birmingham Festival of Arts, and the St Vincent's Hospital Foundation. He chaired the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham and the Birmingham Museum of Art (1986–1994). During his tenure with the museum, he guided a $21 million capital campaign for expansion and personally negotiated the donation of a Major collection of 18th century French art and furnishings from his cousin, Virginia Woodward Hitt.
Spencer also volunteered his time for the Boy Scouts of America, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Robert Meyer Foundation and the UAB Research Foundation. He served as president of the Mountain Brook Club, the Redstone Club and The Club. His donations made possible the Spencer Honors House and two endowed professorships at UAB and the Spencer Science Building at Sewanee. He also endowed the Curatorship in Asian Art at the Birmingham Museum of Art and a lecture series as the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.